With just days to go before South Sudanese Vice President-designate Riek Machar is due to return to the capital, the government and opposition remain at odds over how the rebel leader will be welcomed and when he will be sworn in.
SPLM-In Opposition spokesman William Ezekiel said his party’s hope is that their leader will still arrive in Juba on Monday, but said the two sides have still not worked out the arrangements for Machar’s reception.
“These are concerns from our side; that he must take oath the day he arrives; that the state of emergency must be lifted and that the demilitarization of Juba must be verified by CTSAMM," Ezekiel said.
CTSAMM stands for the Cease-fire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, the body charged with monitoring security arrangements as laid out in the August peace agreement to end South Sudan's civil war.
Ezekiel said his party is not yet satisfied with the demilitarization of Juba, per the peace agreement. According to the peace deal, a sizable number of government troops should remain in Juba during the transitional period while the remainder are to be redeployed 25 kilometers outside the capital.
Information Minister Michael Makuei insisted that the redeployment had been completed, but SPLM-IO officials said that has not yet been confirmed by the CTSAMM and they want that confirmation before Machar sets foot in Juba.
Officials with the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, the body tasked with monitoring implementation of the peace agreement, were not available for comment.
Makuei told VOA's South Sudan In Focus that it is not the responsibility of the SPLM-IO to manage Machar’s reception in Juba. The government has been trying to tamp down any expectations or excitement that might be generated by Machar’s return Juba.
SPLM-IO insists on immediate swearing-in
Machar is demanding he be sworn in the day he arrives. Makuei said the event will take place on Tuesday, without pomp and ceremony.
“Should the first vice president-designate arrives on Monday, he will be received at official level at the airport and after reception at the airport he will proceed to his residence where he will be receiving people, where he will be holding meetings and the second day he will go to J-One to take oath of office after the oath of office he will proceed to his office that will constitute the end of day two," said the spokesman.
Ezekiel said the SPLM-IO expects Machar to be sworn in as first vice president on Monday and will not compromise on that point.
“On our side we oppose and reject this idea for the leader to come the first vice president-designate to go and again come in the morning for swearing in. This is unfair and why should we just make one occasion two occasions? Why do we want to waste resources more than when we can do it just in one day?”
In addition, the SPLM-IO expects Machar to address a rally upon on his arrival — something the government has said will not happen.
Machar had been scheduled to return to Juba on April 12, but postponed his arrival, saying he had not finalized technical arrangements with his leadership on his arrival.